I had a very fortunate opportunity to spend three days in the Indian Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. It was brilliant, gorgeous, and invigorating. The best parts? Getting to introduce the basics of backpacking to ladies completely new to it, and learning about their motivations and barriers to entry.
For many, their backpacking curiosity is piqued because they already love hiking and camping. Backpacking is the natural combination of those two activities. Yet the barrier to entry can still feel quite high. Most people tell me they don't know where to go and what gear to take. I also don't think most people realize how much planning goes into it. Planning definitely gets easier as you have more experience (like most things in life), but it's certainly a lot of work to get started.
Here's our itinerary for our three day trip. I highly recommend this backpacking trip. It gets the YESYESYES! stamp of approval.
Wilderness: Indian Peaks Wilderness
Trail: Cascade Trail #1
Trailhead: Monarch Lake
Mileage: 14.8 miles
Start Elevation: 8,345'
End Elevation: 10,328'
Total Elevation Gain: 2,507' (1,938' gain one way)
Detailed Trail Description: From ProTrails
Trail Map & GPS Coordinates: From ProTrails
Ranger Station: Sulphur Ranger District, 970-887-4100
Permits? YES, Reserve a campsite at Crater Lake as early as possible. It's $5 and they also provide a parking pass
Nearest Town: Granby, Colorado
Downloadable Topo Map Here
Check out the map here, from Dino Lots to the Monarch Lake Trailhead
- From the Dinosaur Lots, take 70W
- Veer (R) to the 40W
- Turn (R) to 34E
- Turn (R) to Hwy 6 (not super well marked, keep your eyes open)
- Take Hwy 6 all the way to the trailhead
THE CONCERN FACTOR for June 26-28, 2015
- Snow: We were expecting snow for the last two miles up to Crater Lake and thought we were going to have to posthole our way. Fortunately, the snow had mostly melted off and it was only muddy for the last mile or so.
- Bears: Didn't see any; word of black bear(s) at Monarch Lake a week prior
- Mosquitos: Definitely around and biting, especially bad on the hike from Crater Lake to Lower Cascade Falls
- Ticks: Didn't see or get any
- Water: Plenty of engorged creeks, waterfalls, and eventually lakes
- Creepy men: Didn't see any; this trail is heavily used so there are plenty of people you'll come across
- Lots of people: Surprised by how many people backpack to Crater Lake and day hike to the Lower Falls. If you're looking for solitude, this may not be the best spot for you
- Elevation gain/loss: The ascent up to Crater Lake was difficult at times
I ended up taking all of my usuals + extra water treatment, bear hang gear and tarp since we were a larger group, a robust first aid kit including a SAM splint, and extra pair of socks (in case my feet got wet from snow). Oh, and I took my big ole zoom lens. It definitely adds a few pounds, but it was great to be able to get shots I wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
day one: Monarch Lake Trailhead to Lower cascade falls
We had two cars with ladies from various parts of Denver, so we touched base at the Dino Lots (just outside of Denver) and then caravaned to Granby for a short restroom stop. We drove to the Monarch Lake trailhead, got our belongings together and started the walk. And by "we," I mean this lovely bunch of ladies.
We hiked about 4.5 miles to the Lower Cascade Falls and set up shop near the top of the falls. It was perfect. Close to a water source, pre-made fire pits and white noise lulling us to sleep after everyone's first trek carrying all that gear on their backs.
OH, FYI...This event was brought together in collaboration with Niki Koubourlis, Founder of Bold Betties Outfitters. Consider renting your gear with her if you're interested in trying out backpacking. She has a nice selection to try. (Yes, this is an affiliate plug! If you rent gear from Bold Betties through my link, I earn a tiny bit of commission. Yay for passive income!) :-)